The Weekly Wonk – January 13th, 2011

by | January 13th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (0)

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk is dedicated to this week’s events, publications, and blog posts.

This week OK Policy released a new fact sheet analyzing a tax reform task force’s proposal to cut the top income tax rate by raising taxes on a majority of Oklahomans.  This blog post explains why their proposal is a bad deal for working families and seniors in Oklahoma.  Our director David Blatt writes in the Tulsa World about why cutting or eliminating the state’s largest revenue source in the face of significant financial obligations is fiscally irresponsible.

Also this week on our blog, we compared Oklahoma’s public and private universities and community colleges on two important measures of value.  Credit counseler Jennifer Wallis offered tips for improving credit scores and financial security. Watch a short video on how IDAs help low and moderate income earners save for important assets like a college education, a home, or a business.  Urban Tulsa Weekly used OK Policy analysis in an article on the state’s troubled health.

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In The Know: State senators propose bill to reinstate newborn coverage

by | January 13th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to krichey@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that Sen. Sean Burrage and Sen. Tom Adelson plan to file a bill to require health insurers in the state to offer child-only insurance policies to newborns and babies.  To learn about the Insurance Commissioner’s recent decision to allow insurers to deny coverage to babies up to one year, click here to read our blog post.  Superintendent Barresi told a state Senate education appropriations hearing why more money is needed to fund remediation for students unprepared for new high-stakes graduation tests.

The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education are seeking a budget increase of $34.7 million to cover mandatory fixed costs, including health and retirement benefits and utilities.  The Oklahoma Ethics Commission voted down a proposal to require disclosure of all campaign expenditures in municipal and county elections.  Despite severe drought, the value of Oklahoma farmland has been rapidly appreciating in recent years.

What is an individual development account (IDA)? The OK Policy Blog hosts a short video on how IDAs help low and moderate income earners save for important assets like a college education, a home, or a business.  In today’s Policy Note, State Impact Oklahoma investigates the causes and consequences of persistent poverty in one of the poorest counties in the state.  The Number of the Day is the number of filers in Oklahoma who claimed the federal earned income tax credit (EITC) on returns filed in 2011. 

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Watch This: What is an IDA?

by | January 12th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Financial Security, Poverty, Watch This | Comments (4)

Our friends at Prosperity Works have created an excellent video on the ins-and-outs of IDAs.  What is an IDA?  It is not, as some Facebook users suggested, internet dating advice or the International Department of Awesome.  IDA stands for individual development account.  It’s a matched savings account for low and moderate income earners to save for important assets like a college education, a home, or a business.  Watch this animated short video to find out more or click here to find an IDA near you.

 

View other clips from OKPolicy’s “Watch This’ video series:

Elderly parole

Long term unemployment, 1967-2011

Packed Oklahoma prisons, rising costs

Creativity & Learning

In The Know: Report suggests ways for Oklahoma to reduce recidivism, prison costs

by | January 12th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that the justice reinvestment initiative release its findings yesterday. The report recommends requiring post-release supervision for all felony offenders, increasing the availability of substance abuse treatment, developing community-based mental health care centers, and providing a graduated approach to sentencing people convicted of drug possession. Read the full report here. Oklahoma DAs are responding favorably to the findings. CapitolBeatOK cited Women in Recovery as a model justice reinvestment program.

Tulsa Republican Sen. Dan Newberry is proposing a bill that would eliminate employment protections for nearly 25,000 state workers. On the OK Policy Blog, we discuss a new analysis of the tax reform task force’s proposal to pay for further cuts to the top income tax rate by ending numerous tax credits and exemptions. If this plan were to take effect today, taxes would increase for 55 percent of Oklahomans. Married couples with two children making $25,000, would see a tax increase of $647. Two-child families would not receive a tax cut unless their income was at least $117,000.

Oklahoma’s ranking in Education Week’s annual Quality Counts report dropped from 17th to 27th this year, while scoring lowest in school finances and student achievement. Superintendent Barresi told the Senate Appropriations Committee that high-stakes graduation testing is necessary to ensure an Oklahoma high school diploma has value. Oklahoma Watchdog shared a summary transcription of the meeting. NewsOK calls for more efforts to keep Oklahoma’s community college students in school. Departing Senate Minority Leader Andrew Rice shared his parting thoughts in the OK Gazette.

The Number of the Day is how many metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions were prevented by ENERGY STAR appliances in Oklahoma as of 2007. In today’s Policy Note, The Nation discusses how Right to Work hasn’t worked to protect Oklahoma manufacturing jobs.

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Task force proposal would raise taxes on most Oklahomans, especially harm seniors and families with children

by | January 11th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (7)

Click for larger image.

A proposal by the legislature’s tax reform task force would raise taxes for most Oklahomans, with the worst impact on low-income seniors and families with children, according to a new fact sheet from the Oklahoma Policy Institute. The task force suggested paying for further cuts to the top income tax rate by ending numerous tax credits and exemptions relied on by low and moderate income Oklahomans.

An analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) reveals that if this plan were to take effect today, taxes would increase for 55 percent of Oklahomans. Only 31 percent of Oklahomans would receive a tax cut. There would be no change for 13 percent of Oklahomans, a group largely made up of childless singles and married couples with incomes smaller than the standard deduction. [Note: ITEP included about 3/4ths of the credits slated for elimination but did not model tax credits believed to be taken primarily by corporations.]

Among all households, the top 1 percent (those making $357,400 or more) would receive by far the largest benefit, with an average tax break of $2,833. The bottom 60 percent would see an average tax increase of $107.

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In The Know: Court rules Oklahoma ban on Islamic law unconstitutional

by | January 11th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that a federal appeals court ruled Oklahoma’s ban on Islamic law is unconstitutional religious discrimination. Rep. Mike Reynolds filed a bill to reinstate “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” for the Oklahoma National Guard. All major categories of state revenue collections were up by double digits in December, except sales taxes. See OK Policy’s most recent Budget Trends and Highlights fact sheet here. Sen. Jim Wilson is seeking to pay for board-certified teacher bonuses by eliminating the sales tax exemption for newspapers.

Attorney General Scott Pruitt asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to reconsider its ruling holding part of last session’s workers’ compensation law unconstitutional. The Attorney General also wrote a letter to Oklahoma police chiefs about complaints that police departments are violating the Open Records Act by withholding public information from initial incident reports. The U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to close six offices in Oklahoma as part of a broad cost-cutting move.

On the OK Policy Blog, credit counseler Jennifer Wallis offers tips for improving credit scores and financial security. Connecticut is transitioning to state-managed low-income healthcare with a program similar to Oklahoma’s SoonerCare. Urban Tulsa Weekly examines the state of Oklahoma’s health.

The Number of the Day is the proportion of Oklahomans who live in ‘high-poverty’ neighborhoods. In today’s Policy Note, Education Sector shows that even auto mechanics are becoming more likely to have college degrees.

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Guest Blog (Jennifer Wallis): Managing credit and debt for financial security

by | January 10th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Financial Security | Comments (3)

Jennifer Wallis is a certified consumer credit counselor and the Vice President of Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Central Oklahoma.  To learn more about Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Central Oklahoma, visit www.cccsok.org or contact Jennifer Wallis at (405) 789-2227.

According to the Fair Isaac Corporation, 58 percent of Americans have credit scores above 700, which is considered a really good score. If you are among the other 42 percent, it may feel like you will always be stuck with a lower score. Fortunately, credit scores are just a snapshot of your credit at one point in time and can change frequently. In just a few short months, you could notice a big increase in your credit score if you work to improve it. Bad credit is not a life sentence.

Poor credit and the resulting low credit score may mean that you can’t borrow money from traditional lenders like banks and credit unions. If you are able to borrow money at all, you may have to pay increased interest rates and higher overall prices.  Because of this, studies have shown that people with poor credit can pay $250,000 more over their lifetime more than people with good credit.

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In The Know: Study sheds light on same-sex tax disparity

by | January 10th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that despite same-sex marriage becoming legal in several states, these couples often have to pay higher taxes because they are not allowed to file jointly. A child care center operator spoke to NewsOK about the importance of the child care tax credit for the working poor. The child care credit is one of those that was targeted for elimination to pay for another cut to the top bracket.

The Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office has cleared an autopsy backlog that had grown to more than 1,000 in March 2010, but to regain accreditation the agency still needs to more than double the number of pathologists and receive funds to move into a modern facility.

The OK Policy Blog compares how Oklahoma public and private universities and community colleges compare on two important measures of value. A study looks at the varying job prospects for Oklahomans with different degrees and majors. The lottery has paid $400 million to Oklahoma schools over the past six years, but the lottery money may just be supplanting funding that lawmakers use for other parts of the state budget.

The Tulsa World discusses how funding for meth treatment has eroded significantly during the state budget crises. Rep. Mike Reynolds is proposing a bill to ban former Oklahoma lawmakers from accepting state-government jobs unless they agree to take home a salary capped at the basic $38,400 legislative pay for the first two years after their term of office ends.

The Number of the Day is the amount by which oil consumption in Oklahoma exceeds the state’s production. In today’s Policy Note, Stateline previews how coming federal budget cuts will affect the states.

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Beyond tuition: Better measures for the cost and value of higher education

by | January 9th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (3)

Photo by flickr user pamhule used under a Creative Commons license.

[UPDATE: A previous version of the debt-to-degree chart misidentified Northwestern Oklahoma State University as a community college when it is a four-year university. The corrected chart reflects that NWOSU has the lowest debt to degree ratio among Oklahoma's public universities.]

We’ve previously discussed the overwhelming evidence that college is a good investment both for students and the state as a whole. The need for at least some college education to get a good job is greater than ever. That’s reflected in Oklahoma by record-breaking college enrollment.

Lawmakers are also taking a growing interest in Oklahoma’s higher education system, with much of their criticism focused on tuition increases. A bill has already been introduced to return the power to approve tuition increases to the legislature, reversing a 2003 change that gave the State Regents full control.

Rising tuition is a legitimate concern. However, advertised tuition rates are not the best way to evaluate colleges and universities for a number of reasons. Due to scholarships and financial aid, fewer than half of all public university students and fewer than 18 percent of private college students pay the full “sticker price” for their education.

What may be a better metric for how well students are being served by a school are the federal loan default rates. The federal government made or guaranteed more than 80 percent of all outstanding student loans this year. If a large proportion of students are unable to pay back their loans, that is a strong indicator that they are not able to find well-paying jobs after leaving school, with or without a degree.

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In The Know: New Jersey may give preview of changes in store for OK DHS

by | January 9th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that reforms to DHS under the class-action settlement may look similar to New Jersey’s recent reforms, which included increasing subsidies for foster families, reducing the use of children’s shelters, and adding hundreds of child-welfare worker positions. The records of the independent monitors set to oversee the reforms will be kept secret.

Key proposals from the state tax-reform task force are drawing heat from members of the task force. OK Policy Director David Blatt writes in the Tulsa World about how the tax-elimination talk ignores huge state needs. Mickey Hepner writes in the Edmond Sun that when the markets are valuing education more, America is valuing education less.

House Speaker Kris Steele outlined his agenda for a final session as Speaker. Rep. Randy McDaniel plans to push changes to state pensions for firefighters and law enforcement. Sen. Jim Wilson has introduced a bill to return control over tuition increases back to the legislature. Twenty-one percent of $39.2 million in midyear state funding increases for Oklahoma school districts will go to three new charter schools.

Oklahomans will have the opportunity to view and to try out the state’s new voting machines during a mock election Monday through Thursday. The Tulsa County Community Action Project is looking for volunteer tax counselors to provide free tax preparation to 17,000 low and moderate income Tulsa families. A group studying how to improve Oklahoma’s probation system will release its recommendations this week.

A report from the conservative American Enterprise Institute finds that most foreign-born workers tend to pay more into the economy than they receive in government services and end up helping create jobs for U.S. natives. The Number of the Day is the percentage increase in initial unemployment claims in Oklahoma during December 2011. In today’s Policy Note, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains why a push to deny unemployment insurance to workers without GEDs is an appalling idea.

 

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